HC Deb 27 January 1947 vol 432 cc611-3
73. Mr. Stubbs

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that some of the sugar beet factories are closing down, whilst tons of sugar beet as still to be collected; and what action he proposes to take.

Mr. T. Williams

No sugar beet factory in England has yet closed down, nor will any close down whilst beet is still available and can be supplied to it in sufficient quantity. Transport difficulties limit the extent to which beet can be diverted from one factory to another, and it is proposed that factories shall close down over the period 10th-24th February, by which time it is hoped that all the sound beet crop will have been dealt with.

Mr. Stubbs

Is the Minister aware that hundreds of tons of sugar beet lying at the roadside have not been collected? Is he further aware that lorry loads of beet have been refused at the factories? Is this due to frost, or is it because the factories are unable to handle the beet? Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the factories are kept open until all the beet is collected?

Mr. Williams

I understand from the factory people that they are ready and willing to receive all the sugar beet fit for use as rapidly as their machinery can be put to work.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

What is to be done about the farmers who have received orders to shift the whole of the beet before 31st January, and are unable to obtain trucks from the railways?

Mr. Williams

The right hon. Gentleman has heard on more than one occasion that there are transport difficulties.

Mr. Hudson

That does not answer my question. What is the individual farmer to do, supposing the factory closes down before he can shift his beet?

Mr. Williams

We do not anticipate that factories will close down before the farmers get the beet to the factories.

Mr. Gooch

Is the Minister aware that there are thousands of tons of sugar beet in a frozen condition? Are there any means of compensating farmers for this immense loss?

Mr. Williams

I can assure my hon. Friend—and the House ought to know— that this year's output of sugar beet is about half a million tons more than the average. If, therefore, we find ourselves confronted with a difficulty of surplus, we ought not to complain too bitterly.

Mr. Stubbs

If that is the fact, why ask the farmers to grow more beet, when there are not enough factories?

Mr. Williams

The factories are working 24 hours a day They cannot cope with more than they have been receiving, and I hope they will remain open until the last lot of sugar beet has been dealt with.

Mr. Dye

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that no factories are closed while there are supplies of sugar beet still left at the roadside, and that these supplies are sent to factories where beet is in short supply?

Mr. Williams

I cannot say that no factory ought to be closed, but I hope sufficient factories will remain open to absorb all the sugar beet.

Mr. Butcher

In view of the tact that many farmers were compelled to grow beet against their better judgment, will the Minister take care to have the beet utilised?

Mr. Williams

It is equally true that many farmers and counties produced more than their beet quota.

Mr. Alpass

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that a solution to this difficulty would be the construction of more beet factories, and will he consider one in the South-West?

Mr. Williams

More beet factories may or may not be necessary, but we cannot produce them over-night.